A recent survey by CLIF Kid, "maker of organic snacks for active kids," noted that 42% of respondents "said reading nutrition labels is more difficult than reading assembly instructions for furniture."

What a curious analogy. It's never dawned on me that there is a correlation between the ease of understanding the nutritional value of a bag of potato chips and the level of difficulty of putting together an RTA shelving unit.

Not that I haven't had ample opportunity to contemplate the comparable degree of complexity between snacking and assembling. Having raised three three daughters, my wife and I have on many occasions tested our skills, and sometimes our patience, to assemble furniture.

Our assortment of flat-pack furniture projects includes a couple of companies no longer in existence. Remember O'Sullivan,, once the second largest RTA furniture maker? We still own a low-rising shelving unit that served as a toy shelf for our kids when we were young. How about Gusdorf? More than two decades later, each or the four shelves of the two tall units we put together - together-  and burdened with approximately 200 vinyl records per shelf, remain intact. (How's that for an endorsement for a defunct company?)

We've also spent the better part of a day assembling a six-cube oak veneer home entertainment unit (including drawer banks to hold hundreds of cassette tapes) manufactured by CWD (Custom Wood Design), a brand departed but is being resurrected.

Sauder Woodwork has graced our home with a computer workstation that has lasted to the point that the PC serves as an I-Pod library while we cradle laptops to do our computing. I round off our tour of renown RTA furniture companies by noting that the entertainment unit that elevates our flat screen TV and stores an HD/DVR cable box and combination DVD/VCR was made by Bush Industries.

And less I forget, not that my back will allow me, there is an IKEA dresser perched in my oldest daughter's room that won't be going anywhere too soon due to its considerable bulk.

Then There Were Furniture Lemons
The aforementioned RTA furniture products came together as designed largely due to the simplicity of their construction, attention to detail of their instructions and our ability to be patient. Over the years, we became pretty adept with an Allen wrench and Phillips head screwdriver.

There was, however, one furniture product that I was ready to hit with a a sledge hammer -- not because of deplorable instructions, but because it was missing multiple parts. It seemed like such a simple melamine shelving unit, similar to the O'Sullivan product that gave us no problem, that it didn't even dawn on me to do an audit of the parts until after the piece was more than 50% assembled. By the time I called the 800 number to obtain the parts, the company, whose name I can't remember, was out of business. 

While I never had a problem following directions, I learned from a product recall issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission that it is possible make directions so bad, that it would be wise not to follow them. Simplicity cribs, which is the poster company for the CPSC's ban on drop-side cribs, actually had a unit a few years back that had instructions that if followed to the "T" resulted in the drop side rail being installed upside down. Unfortunately, this problem was not realized until after a child died.

I'm not sure what that has to do with reading nutrition labels. Maybe CLIF Kid's next survey will provide an answer.

Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.

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